Gingrich’s First Divorce, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  May 16 2011 @ 11:45am


A reader writes:

I've always understood that Gingrich brought in the papers for his wife to sign while she was in the hospital, not that he informed her for the first time.  Notice that the daughter's account would still apply, as she doesn't give details as to what happened during that visit.

Kevin Drum dug up original reporting from Mother Jones on the incident and agrees that "nothing in Cushman's account really changes anything we originally reported." Another reader:

Are you taking the word of the daughter, who was thirteen at the time, over that of the wife who was quoted by the Washington Post as saying:

"He can say that we had been talking about [a divorce] for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise," says Jackie Gingrich, in a telephone interview from Carrollton. "He's a great wordsmith … He walked out in the spring of 1980 and I returned to Georgia. By September, I went into the hospital for my third surgery. The two girls came to see me, and said Daddy is downstairs and could he come up? When he got there, he wanted to discuss the terms of the divorce while I was recovering from the surgery … To say I gave up a lot for the marriage is the understatement of the year."


I, too, looked into this rumor. An online search yields scant knowledge of what went on between the parties involved, save this lone dissent from the daughter. She was 13 at the time of the divorce. Was she in the room every minute of the visit? Were there visits she wasn’t privy to? To what degree is this an unbiased account to be relied upon if your objective is to judge Newt’s character? I hardly think this testimonial puts to rest the reports of Newt’s alleged cruelty and flippant treatment of spouses (both “ex” and current). And then there is this to cap off the daughter’s dispute of the narrative:

My sister and I feel that it is time to move on, close the book on this event and focus on building a great future. We will not answer additional questions or make additional comments regarding this meaningless incident, which occurred more than three decades ago. As I said, my mother is a private person. She will not give media interviews. She deserves respect and should be allowed to live in peace.

Her father is running for President and she preemptively announces that all the people involved in a very character-baring event will remain mum on the matter? I think you’re too quick to put this to bed.

I may be. I was trying to be fair to all parties. Justin Elliott is on the case.

(Photo: New York Times Columnist David Brooks moves out of the way of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as he leaves the Russell Senate Office Building after addressing the Esperanza 2011 National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference on Capitol Hill May 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)